Teaching Kids about Money

Today, Mr Credit Card from www.askmrcreditcard.com is going to contribute with an article about things we can teach our kids about life and money. He asks that you check his best credit card offers page if you are looking for a new card

I honestly think teaching kids about money this is the most overlooked thing that most parents do not teach. Instead, kids learn from our behavior and how we treat money. But I really think the subject of how to manage money must be taught.

I have three kids and teaching them stuff is sure tough. But as a parent, I would like to instill good habits (including money habits). Here are some of the things I think we can do to teach them about various aspects of life that will affect their outlook about hard work and money.

Reward Hard Work hard and Not Just Results – Some kids are talented at certain things like math or baseball. Very often (in their early ages), they excel in school or sports without much effort because of talent. But very often, because of the talent, they do not develop the habit of working hard (because they do not have to). But as they grow older, they are going to face obstacles. If they do not learn the value of hard work and overcoming difficulties, they will hit the brick wall often. Teaching them the value of hard work (even if they are talented) is so important.

What has this got to do with money?  Well, I think delayed gratification is one of the hardest thing to teach, so we try to praise our kids when they achieved something due to hard work. We tell them that they accomplished it because they worked at it and we explain that to be able to afford expensive things, they have to study hard, work hard and earn their own money!

Going to Shop Does Not Mean You Have to Shop! – There are various ways to go about doing it. One way is simply to explain concepts as they come along. For example, initially, my kids always wanted to buy stuff when they go to Toys R Us or anywhere else. To put a stop to this nonsense, we had to explain that just because we went to a shop does not mean we have to buy anything. We could be just looking, doing some research or simply buying a gift for someone else.

Ask Them What Happened To Stuff They Bought A While Ago – Another thing that we like to bring up to our kids when they want to buy something on impulse is to remind them of something they bought in the past and whether they are now still excited over it and playing with it. Chances are that they will say no! We found that this was a very effective way to make them realize that they should think twice before buying anything.

Teach Kids to Compare Price – Here is another technique we use: When we go grocery shopping, Mrs Credit Card asks the kids to compare prices of the cheapest cereals. We explain to them that even though they love a particular one, there are times when it is not the best time to buy it. They should only buy it if it is on sale. We also ask them to compare the price relative to the weight of the product to see which gives greater value for money. After a while, they catch on and only buy cereal that is on sale!

Make Them Work – I see lots of kids organizing lemonade stands outside their houses during summer. It could be to draw crowds for a garage sale or to raise money for a fundraiser. I think this is such a great thing as they can learn so many things just from selling lemonade. They can learn the the concept of selling things for a profit.

Another common task kids or teens take is to work to earn some money. It could be as simple as baby sitting, walking your neighbors dog or working at the ice-cream shop. Making them realize that they need to earn before they can spend is a good lesson.

Slowly Give Them More Responsibilities – As kids grow older, I believe in giving them more responsibility. It could be making the oldest kid look after their younger siblings. Or giving them tasks like clearing the trash, doing the dishes, etc. I know of some parents who give their teens prepaid credit cards to start teaching them about using “credit” (though it is not technically credit). Maybe that is a bad idea as you want them to know to manage a student credit card when they are old enough to get one.

Selling Things For Fund Raisers – One of the things that I admire about the Boys Scouts is that they are always doing fundraisers for their scouting trips and events (no money, no outings). It teaches them “cold calling” or more likely, approaching Dad and Mom’s friends to sell things like coffee beans and Christmas wreaths!

Teach Them Not To Waste Stuff – Another thing I like to emphasize to kids is not to waste stuff. Whether it is the water when they brush their teeth or making sure they do not waste food, we are pretty particular about this. I think this is a good mindset to instill in our kids.

Performance Matters More Than How Good Your Look – I find that kids like to buy fancy stuff and beyond a certain age, they are conscious about brands. I’ve mentioned this before, but when my kids first played baseball and soccer, they keep bugging me to get them the fancy gear. I had to keep telling my kids that how you perform matters more than your gear. After a couple of years of playing, I think they have finally come to realize this and no longer bug me about things.

It’s a Never-Ending Process – Teaching your kids about money and other things that are important is a never-ending process. But you have to do it when they are young because once they grow older, they tend not to listen to their parents anymore and are more likely to be influenced by peers.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Debt Reduction.

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Watching My Debt

NEW YORK - MAY 20:  In this photo illustration...
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I’m so excited.  Yesterday, I transferred the final payment for my personal line of credit.  This LOC was originally my overdraft protection LOC that had worked it’s way up to $6000 at 21%.    Today, it is non-existent.

We started to pay down debt on April 15th, 2009.   Since that time, we have paid off  $22, 370.70 of our debt.   That isn’t $22,370.00 in payments, that is a $22k reduction in our total debt!   By my calculations, we have made approximately $28,000 in payments to get that reduction.  Next week, we cross the line for 25% of debt eliminated.  This is a good day.

Over the last 14 months, we’ve settled into much more responsible spending and saving habits.   It no longer feels like we’re sacrificing our lifestyle.   We’ve built up a useful emergency fund and set aside money for some things that we know are coming, like braces for my son.   In 6 weeks, we are taking our first debt-less vacation.

Now, we start on the long slog to the end.   We have 3 debts left to pay:  Our last car loan(ever!),  one credit card which was an accumulation of pretending we were making progress on our debt by combining many debts onto one card, and finally, our mortgage.    The car will be paid by the end of the year.  When summer childcare expenses are over, we’ll be making triple payments until it is gone.    After that, we have a long, slow couple of years paying off the credit card.

It hasn’t always been easy, but right now, it feels good to look at the progress we’ve made.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Debt Reduction.

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Automatic Everything

In an effort to simplify my finances, I’ve automated every bill I have.  For years, I resisted, fearing a lack of control over my money.   A few months ago, I re-examined the bill paying options on my bank’s website and changed my mind.  This is one thing that USBank has done right.

The first thing I did was set a budget. Without a budget, it’s not possible to let your money take care of itself.   I did this months before I decided to automate.

All of the bills that offer a budget plan–a plan that averages your payments to avoid fluctuation–went on the plan.    It means I do overpay some months, but it also means I get to underpay some months.  Most important, I always know what will be due.   These bills were scheduled in the bank’s online bill paying system as is, along with the rest of the bills that do not fluctuate.

All of the bills that do fluctuate went in to the bill paying system at their highest level.  For example, I don’t pay for text messaging on my cell phone.  Some months, I send and receive text messages.  I pay my cell phone bill assuming that there will be a few messages.  This is slowly building a credit on my account.  If I don’t use all of the credit, I will get to skip a month of payments sometime next year.

I keep track of all of this using Quicken.  Every one of these bill is in the calendar.  They are all scheduled to be entered into the register on the first of the month, to post of the actual day of payment.   This lets me see, at a glance,  my cash flow for the entire month.

But wait!  What about the non-monthly payments, you ask? They are also in Quicken, broken into monthly line items.   There’s a “Set aside for property taxes” item, a “Set aside for web host” item, and a few other items.

My time to maintain this has been reduced to comparing the bills to the bill-paying system every other week.  At the same time, I consolidate all of the “set asides” so I don’t have 10 property tax entries when one will do.

I know this is an inefficient method of saving money, but my goal isn’t to save money, it’s automating money and removing one layer of stress from my life.  It has transformed bill-paying from an hour or two per week to 20 minutes, twice per month and very little stress.

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My Financial Plan – How I Improve on Ramsey

In April, my wife and I decided that debt was done. We have hopefully closed that chapter in our lives. I borrowed, then purchased, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. <a href=budget” width=”300″ height=”213″ />We are almost following his baby steps. Our credit has always been spectacular, but we used it a lot. Our financial plan is Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, with some adjustments.

Step 1. Budget:

The budget was painful, and for the first couple of months, impossible.  We had no idea what bills were coming due. There were quarterly payments for the garbage bill and annual payments for the auto club.  It was all a surprise.  Surprises are setbacks in a budget.

When something came up, we’d start budgeting for it, but stuff kept coming up. We’re not on top of all of it, yet, but we are so much closer. We’ve got a virtual envelope system for groceries, auto maintenance, baby needs(we have two in diapers) and some discretionary money. We set aside money for everything that isn’t a monthly expense, and have a line item for everything that is. My wife is eligible for overtime and monthly bonuses. That money does not get budgeted. It’s all extra and goes straight on to debt, or to play catch-up with the bills we had previously missed.  I figure it will take a full year to get all of the non-monthly expenses in the budget and caught up.

Step 2. The initial emergency fund:

Ramsey recommends $1000, adjusted for your situation. I decided $1000 wasn’t enough. That isn’t even a month’s worth of expenses. We settled on $1800, plus $25/month. It’s still not enough, but it’s better. Hopefully, we’ll be able to ignore it long enough that the $25/month accrues to something worthwhile.

Step 3. The Debt Snowball:

This is the controversial bad math. Pay off the lowest balance accounts first, then take those payments and apply them to the higher balance accounts. Emotionally, it’s been wonderful. We paid off the first credit card in a couple of weeks, followed 6 weeks later by my student loan. Since April, we’ve dropped nearly $10,000 and we haven’t made huge cuts to our standard of living.    At least monthly, we re-examine our expenses to see what else can be cut.

Step 4. Three to six months of expenses in savings:

We aren’t on this step yet. In step 2, we are consistently depositing more, making us more secure every month.

Step 5. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement:

I have not stopped my auto-deposited contribution. It’s stupid to pass up an employer match. My wife’s company does not match, so she is currently not contributing.

Step 6. College funding for children:

We have started a $10 College fund.

Step 7. Pay off home early:

I don’t see the point in handling this one separately. Our mortgage is  debt, and when the other debts are paid, we will be less than a year from owning our house, free and clear. This is rolled in with step three. All debt is going away, immediately.

Step 8. Build wealth and give!

We have cut off most of our charitable giving. Every other year, it has been a significant percent of our income, and in a few more years, will be so again. The only exception to this is children knocking on the door for fundraisers. I have no problems with saying no to a parent fundraising for their kid, but when the kids is doing the work, door-to-door, especially in the winter, I buy something. My son’s school, on the other hand, gets fundraisers ignored. When they come home, I send a check to the school, ignoring the program. I bypass the overhead and make a direct donation.

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